COLUMBUS—On Wednesday, State Senator Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard) and State Senator Scott Oelslager (R-North Canton) announced the House passage of their legislation aimed at providing common sense criminal justice reforms to give victims of human trafficking an opportunity to rebuild their lives.
The legislation complements a series of bills passed over the last several years focusing on the eradication of human trafficking through better enforcement, increased penalties for perpetrators and greater public awareness.
“It is my goal to provide victims of human trafficking hope and opportunity as they begin to pull their lives back together,” said Senator Kunze. “It's important for our state to remove needless barriers to obtaining employment."
Convictions stemming from coerced behavior, such as prostitution, can negatively impact the victim's ability to apply for a job or seek permanent housing. A defendant’s information is still accessible as a court record even when the individual was found not guilty, or the case was dismissed.
Senate Bill 4 offers hope for human trafficking victims. If an individual commits certain crimes as a result of his or her victimization, this legislation would allow for expungement of those offenses from the victim's criminal record.
Additionally, the bill would permit victims of compelled prostitution to apply for intervention in lieu of conviction, an option that is afforded to human trafficking victims under current law.
"As we continue our efforts to stomp out this form of modern-day slavery, this legislation helps victims rebuild their lives and helps ensure that our civil justice system treats them fairly," said Senate President Larry Obhof, who co-sponsored the bill.
“I applaud the passage of Senate Bill 4 today. Our legislature has worked hard to see that human trafficking victims will no longer be held back as a result of their victimization," said Judge Paul Herbert, Franklin County Municipal Court. "This action will allow Judges to review the history of a person and determine whether they qualify as a victim. At that point, Judges will have the discretion to remove convictions, and put individuals legally back in the place they were before they were trafficked. The passage of this law will allow victims to pursue their education goals, get better jobs, and raise their children where they choose.”
Senate Bill 4 now goes to the Governor for a signature.
Contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-3737-888 — or text INFO or HELP to BeFree (233733).